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Kirkus Indie Books of the Month - April 2014

A well-observed, colorfully illustrated book about a close-knit family’s day-to-day life.

SUMMER AT THE Z HOUSE

A little boy, his mom and assorted pets enjoy a summertime visit from Grandma in this warm chronicle of everyday family life, enlivened with vocabulary-rich text and quirky illustrations.

When Grandma arrives for a visit, her engaged, caring presence makes the summer days more fun for Noah, his mom, and their animals, which include a dog named Pepper and three cats. Grandma turns dinner into a special occasion by writing descriptions of her feast (salad, roast beef, chocolate pudding) on a menu that Noah happily reads aloud before each course—a subtle underscoring of the author’s mission to encourage reading among her target audience. Grandma enjoys hearing about Noah’s creative day camp endeavors, which include crafting masks, making a totem pole and creating cartoons with clay figures (all beguilingly and colorfully imagined by illustrators Stommel and Czekalski). She also shares the family’s love for animals. The book is the third in a series of books centered on Noah, his mom and their growing collection of pets, each with its own distinct personality. Zanville (How the Dog Came to Live at the Z House, 2013, etc.), a veteran educator and a regular blogger about reading and literacy at zhousestories.com,offers vivid images throughout; for example, during the family’s trip to an aquarium, Noah observes “miniature jellyfish that looked like white parachutes with dangly tentacles” and “glowed in the lights of their dark tanks so brightly—it was like looking at little stars in the sky.” There are no wacky plot twists here—just refreshingly genuine warmth and quiet observations of real-life moments among family members, be they human, canine or feline.

A well-observed, colorfully illustrated book about a close-knit family’s day-to-day life.

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4819-5234-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2014

A family chronicles their patriarch’s dementia and the painful caregiving experience without flinching and with a lot of...

DAD'S LAST HUNT

DEMENTIA – AN UNINVITED GUEST OR ALZHEIMER’S – NOT ALL IT’S CRACKED UP TO BE

As dementia claims a Midwestern man’s mind, his wife and son record the experience in this memoir.

Dementia slowly crept into Donny Larson’s life. By the time he went hunting in 2005 with his friends and son, he was already battling forgetfulness and mood swings. After Donny got lost in the forest and his son found him shivering and soaked, the younger Larson, Mike, realized this would be the last hunt of his dad’s life, for everyone’s safety. The hunt story, which opens this debut work, serves as the perfect metaphor for the larger tale of Donny’s descent into dementia and the challenges, heartbreak and—occasionally—hope he and his family found in the experience. Initially, Donny’s Minnesotan family noticed him injuring himself and growing more forgetful, but they worked around it to keep him at home. However, after a violent episode in 2007, his wife struggled to find a nearby facility willing to take him, then she wrestled with practical issues as well as emotional ones—especially after Donny was eventually moved into the same facility where his own mentally unsound mother still lived. Donny’s wife and son write in sincere, frank tones, discussing with a surprising amount of openness topics such as incontinence, saving money for nursing home care, drugs, their Lutheran faith and the concept of “best care”—the realistic balance of care and sacrifice. The love and patience offered by Donny’s wife is evident on every page, and readers will empathize with her as her husband’s health declines. Likewise, her son’s combination of frustration, sadness and resignation is understandable, particularly when he mentions how he doesn’t mind caring for his kids since they will grow up and become independent, but his father “was never going to recover and his needs kept growing.” While this memoir might be an overwhelming read for someone starting out as a caregiver or fearful of their own diagnosis, middle-aged and older readers who’ve been down a similar path may find comfort in this homespun story.

A family chronicles their patriarch’s dementia and the painful caregiving experience without flinching and with a lot of heart.

Pub Date: Dec. 25, 2011

ISBN: 978-0615563862

Page Count: 146

Publisher: Dad's Last Hunt

Review Posted Online: Jan. 14, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2014

Ruthlessly brilliant writing brings grace to a story smoldering in pain.

WAYS OF LEAVING

A standout novel about going home, where old girlfriends, awkward funerals, deeply buried parental secrets and naked, drunken, nocturnal escapades irritate a man like scabs of his squandered youth and misspent adulthood.

When Chase returns to his hometown in the Poconos, his father has just died, his wife has left him, he lost his job as a journalist, and his sister wastes away in a mental institution. He’s grappling with addictions to sex and alcohol as well as, closer to the surface, a problem with rage, most frequently expressed with dripping sarcasm. It’s that sarcasm that gives this bleak, sometimes violent book its surprising levity. “She didn’t hate us,” Chase’s brother, Aaron, says of their absentee mother. “Maybe you’re right,” Chase responds. “Maybe what I perceived as hatred was really just a sort of repulsed loathing.” Jarrett (More Towels, 2002) seamlessly combines dark comedy with real tragedy and pathos, a hat trick comparable to that of certain movies with similar themes—Zach Braff’s Garden State, for instance, or Diablo Cody’s Young Adult. Scenes such as Chase’s encounter with a disabled former classmate or his confrontation with his new lover’s jealous husband are masterfully done: simultaneously exciting, frightening, hilarious and sad. Even a sex scene feels both authentic and erotic, an achievement that becomes even more impressive when the rhythm and language of lovemaking are repeated—disturbingly but fittingly—during, of all things, a grave-digging scene. The bold audacity of Jarrett’s writing carries the novel through its minor flaws: A few too many women populate Chase’s life, and there’s a sameness to his initial encounters with them that might start to bore readers as much as it does him. Also, some of his misadventures, cleverly written as they are, seem to stand apart from the rest of the story, introducing compelling characters and situations that then drift away from the larger narrative. But Chase remains an enthralling, completely believable character, and readers who share his sensibilities will writhe and laugh in empathy as he seeks to retie his unraveling life.

Ruthlessly brilliant writing brings grace to a story smoldering in pain.

Pub Date: March 11, 2014

ISBN: 978-1940716411

Page Count: 375

Publisher: SparkPress

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2014

A comprehensive, usable explanation of contracts, copyright and other key legal concepts that all writers need to understand.

Writers in Wonderland

KEEPING YOUR WORDS LEGAL

A guide to the rights and responsibilities of writers, whether they are not yet published, self-published or traditionally published.

In this handbook for writers, Camp (In God We Trust, 2006) draws on her legal background and Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to cover a broad range of issues of which every writer subject to U.S. law should be aware. After a foreword and introduction, the book begins with an explanation of the copyright system: what can be copyrighted, how to obtain a copyright and what protections the law offers copyright holders. Camp cogently explains the difference between copyright infringement and plagiarism, an often confusing topic, with samples of several works involved in recent accusations of plagiarism; she cites case law in nontechnical language to demonstrate the definition of fair use that courts have come to accept. The book leads readers through the elements of a publishing contract and identifies areas of frequent dispute—e.g., the definition of an acceptable manuscript. While copyright and contracts make up the bulk of the book, other sections address the financial aspects of a writing career, the benefits and drawbacks of incorporation, and defamation. Camp relies on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland for the book’s structure, with quotations from Carroll’s work serving as thematic epigrams for each chapter; the living chess game, for instance, sets the stage for the discussion of contracts. Adding a touch of whimsy to what could be a dry subject, the quotations and accompanying black-and-white illustrations by Tenniel (which were used in the original editions of Carroll’s works) also serve as an object lesson, as Camp explains that they are in the public domain and can thus be used freely thanks to the expiration of their copyright. With its clear explanations of complex topics supported by easy-to-follow actual and hypothetical examples, this book has the potential to be a useful reference tool for writers who want to understand both their own rights and their responsibilities to other content creators.

A comprehensive, usable explanation of contracts, copyright and other key legal concepts that all writers need to understand.

Pub Date: April 29, 2013

ISBN: 978-0989250412

Page Count: 342

Publisher: KP PK Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2014

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